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Planning for 2016? Embrace the Change

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Oct 26th 2015
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Firms of all sizes should engage in strategy planning for 2016 now, and with the whirlwind of innovation and change within the accounting and technology industry, there is no better time to get to know the tools to improve the life of your firm and your clients.

For example, some newer players like Receipt Bank and Hubdoc have hit the scene and made large strides into the US market, while established brands like Intuit, Sage, and CCH among others have refined their product offerings to make them more powerful, scalable, and user friendly. In fact, just recently, CCH quietly announced its cloud software CCH Axcess Practice will be deployed on the HTML 5 platform. (Message me if you want my opinion on how monumentally huge that is.)

What was also unique in 2015 were the mega partnerships that were formed. Sage and Salesforce announced a partnership to develop Sage Live – a front and back office accounting system built on the Salesforce platform. Box and IBM announced a global strategic partnership to power next-generation enterprise content management and collaboration.

You also now have Apple and Microsoft working together. Wait … what? That's right, last month Microsoft Corporate VP of Office 365 took the stage of Tim Cook's keynote presentation of the Apple iPad Pro and demonstrated how the two companies have collaborated to offer the productivity beast Office 365 on the Apple iPad Pro. As Dr. Venkman, played by Bill Murray, said in Ghostbusters, “Dogs and cats living together … mass hysteria!”

So why are new products, platform changes, and mega partnerships relevant to our strategic planning in 2016? With a dizzying amount of change happening, we must boil these things down and focus on the following common denominators: technology, processes, billing, and culture.

Technology. It would be a detriment to you and your client's business to not consider cloud-based accounting, tax, and payroll suites on the market today. If you are still manually entering data into an accounting system, “you're dead to me,” as Kevin O'Leary from the ABC show Shark Tank likes to say. In light of good-hearted competition, prospective clients being serviced with manual, outdated technologies and processes that see what our firm has to offer choose us nearly 100 percent of the time. Furthermore, nearly 100 percent of young, successful business owners we talk to are already using high-tech business tools, and wouldn't consider going backwards. If you don't get on board, you could lose clients and miss opportunities.

Processes. Efficiencies derived by automatically downloaded bank and credit card feeds, paperless AP/AR systems, pics taken from mobile phones that OCR receipts and invoices and upload directly into accounting software, online workflow and document storage, and scan and auto-flowing IRS documents directly into tax software, just to name a few, give us freedom. Freedom to grow your practice, offer more services, spend more time training and developing your people, make more money, spend more time with family – freedom to do whatever is important to you.

Billing. Practically every one of these tools are subscription-based and charged to us monthly due to bulk deployment discounts we receive. The more tools we use, the more cost we incur monthly. But beyond these monthly costs that we incur, we must have a conversation about what we bring to the table, and how we get paid for it. These tools allow us to provide something to our clients that Joe CPA does not. These ideas and tools allow us to move beyond the commodity of a tax return or financial statement and become true advisors to our clients. No, I am not suggesting we give up preparing a tax return or financial statement. I am suggesting, however, that we can use our efficiencies gained by deploying these tools to step up our level of service. Take your pick of whatever interests you – budgeting, forecasting, financial analysis, niche services, financial planning, retirement planning, succession planning, to name a few ... if you were to ask your client if they want or need these services, I guarantee you they will say yes. Ron Baker explains the concept of billing for our value in his book Implementing Value Pricing better than I could, so I defer to his expertise and monumental book to teach you about that. I suggest you pick up his book and give value billing a serious consideration in 2016.

Culture. This discussion culminates into culture – who you are perceived to be, and the type of environment you create for your clients and employees. Beyond the flexibility and luxuries cloud software and streamlined processes provide, if you have been keeping up with industry news or have tried to hire talented young professionals in the last couple years, you will know that we are at war over these people. If that coveted young, smart professional who everyone is searching for right now has the choice of two accounting firms to work for – one that is adopting these ideas and tools and one that isn't, guess who wins?

Final Thoughts

It's time we recognize that technology, processes, billing, and culture catapult us into the "future of now." I like to say the future of now because these concepts may seem forward-thinking and future-leaning, but they are disrupting our industry right now. Competition is fierce for our clients and our businesses. Are you going to let these things pass you by? Now is the time to act. Disrupt yourself.

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